John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
John said, “I came…that he might be revealed to Israel.” I have long thought that the Church is like John the Baptist. We exist to make Jesus known in the world. In John’s day, nobody had any inklings about Jesus, the Messiah, or the whole religious tradition that would arise around his story. In today’s world many people have had exposure to the religion of Jesus, whether or not they have encountered the risen Christ in their lives. An increasing number of people are as uninformed about Jesus as the Jews in Jesus’ day. They have a sense of being spiritual, but it has precious little organized religious expression. In fact, unlike in John’s day, there is a widespread distrust of organized religion. Religion is seen as a promotor of bigotry, isolationism and self-serving hypocrisy. John didn’t come to reveal a religion. He came to reveal Jesus.
Jesus said, “Come and see.” To the ones who inquired, the seeker, the interested, or those sensing a spiritual void or need, Jesus invites people to join him. He offers no explanations or rationalizations, no mission statements and no causes, just a simple, person-to-person invitation to try out the community of Jesus for a while and then make up their own minds.
Perhaps Jesus’ invitation is the way to make Jesus known. As we as a parish gather this Sunday to look back at where we’ve come from, and then forward where we would like to go, we do so as a religious community gathered. Let us never forget that Jesus is the core of our community. Our purpose is the same as John’s; our methods should be those of Jesus.
The Rev. Paul Moore
Priest at St. Paul’s (email)